1 Australian National University Medical School.
2 Gastroenterology and Hepatology Unit, Canberra Hospital.
Liver stiffness measurement (LSM) by Fibroscan-determined transient elastography is a non-invasive approach to estimate liverfibrosis severity. In NAFLD, advanced liver fibrosis is excluded by normal liver stiffness, but a wide range of cut-offs have been used to predict advanced liver fibrosis or cirrhosis. This may be partly because steatosis (measured by controlled attenuation parameter, CAP) contributes to liver stiffness, but also because LSM fluctuates in NAFLD. In a recent pivotal study, one-third of patients with liver stiffness >12.0 kPa showed reversal after 4-6 months; these cases did not have advanced liver fibrosis on biopsy. We performed serial Fibroscans 6-36 months apart in 73 NAFLD patients, 38 with LSM >10kPa at entry. Those who lost ≥1kg weight (n=31) significantly reduced liver stiffness (3.6±6.1 vs 0.53±4.1 kPa, p<0.05) and CAP score (39±63 loss vs 24±65 dB/m gain, p<0.05) compared to those who did not (n=29). Patients who reported increased physical activity (n=25) also reduced liver stiffness (3.6±6 vs 0.35±6 kPa) and CAP (20±71 loss vs 32±71 dB/m gain). Overall, those with improved LSM were significantly more likely to have lost weight and/or improved physical activity. These effects of lifestyle adjustments partly explain why a single measurement of 12.0 kPa is not a reliable cut-off for advanced liver fibrosis in NAFLD. In addition to repeating the study after 6-12 months, documentation of response to lifestyle advice and weight reduction should be determined before assuming any cut-off indicates advanced liver fibrosis. Despite this reservation about diagnostic accuracy, we consider that measurement of liver stiffness and CAP score serve to motivate patients to enact lifestyle modifications that can improve NAFLD severity.